February is LGBT+ History month in the UK, to help Downtown in Business celebrate this and help to spread the message to our members Head of Events Heather Thornton interviewed Andi Herring who co-founded the LCR Pride Foundation and has recently been appointed the CEO.
Tell us about your role with LCR Pride Foundation?
“I co-founded LCR Pride Foundation in early 2019, but was recently appointed CEO of the organisation, following a 12-month tenure as interim CEO in 2020, which was quite a year to move into the role! My job is to drive the organisation’s strategic goals, manage overall operations and lead on key events and campaigns delivered by the organisation. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that these objectives and events have been a moveable feast, but it’s certainly kept me and the team busy.”
What does LGBT+ History month mean to you?
“For me and for LCR Pride Foundation, LGBT+ History Month is not only an opportunity to celebrate the history of our diverse LGBT+ community, here in the city region and further afield, it is also a chance to educate people about that history.
“Education key to understanding and acceptance. Each year we hope that LGBT+ History Month informs more people of the struggle that LGBT+ people around the world still face and encourages them to support the ongoing fight for LGBT+ equality. We also hope that the focus on LGBT+ stories will help LGBT+ people in the region better understand their own identity.”
We’re far from equality for the LGBT+ community, one huge milestone we’re yet to cross is the act to ban Conversion Therapy in the UK, what can the business community do to help?
“This is very true. We have come a long way, but we still have a significant distance to go to achieve equality for LGBT+ people. LGBT+ History Month actually happens in February each year to coincide with the 2003 abolition of Section 28, a piece of legislation enacted in 1988 that prohibited ‘the promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities.
“This was a huge milestone. Ten years later, in 2013, legislation to allow same-sex marriage was passed by Parliament. Yet in 2021, more than two years after the Government promised to ban the practice and more than seven months after Boris Johnson stated that a study into the prevalence of gay ‘conversion’ therapy would take place before there was a move to ban it, there has still been no action despite the Prime Minister himself describing the practice as “abhorrent”.
“On this matter specifically, members of the business community and the organisations they represent can sign and share the petition launched earlier this month by the Peter Tatchell Foundation which urges the government to “stop dithering” on banning the practice.
“More widely, though, the business community needs to come together and ensure that their workplaces, networks and professional sectors are inclusive and appropriately meet the needs of LGBT+ employees and peers. This means everything from ensuring LGBT+ representation at all levels, to making sure that inclusive language is used in recruitment drives, to normalising pronouns and ensuring they are respected in the workplace.
“Working with organisations like LCR Pride Foundation and Navajo will allow businesses to ensure their processes and procedures are appropriate and inclusive, as well as highlighting ways to celebrate the diverse groups within our LGBT+ community through annual awareness days, such as the upcoming Trans Day of Visibility (TDoV) on March 31st.
“They can also engage with social and educational events, like those that are taking place in the city region throughout LGBT+ History Month, to learn and understand more about the community and the challenges that it faces.
“The business community needs to remember that customers, clients and suppliers are extremely informed nowadays. While support during Pride month in June and around Pride in Liverpool in July is valuable and appreciated, it is no longer enough to just turn a logo rainbow for a few weeks. Action has to be year round and meaningful, such as reviewing policies and procedures, helping organisations that support the LGBT+ community through sponsorship, funding and skill sharing.”
One huge leap in the last year is that LGBT+ sex education was made compulsory in all schools from September 2020. I think the next step will be inclusion of important moments from throughout LGBT+ History, what’s one thing from LGBT+ History you wish you’d learned in school?
“To be honest, any LGBT+ education would have been great. I entered secondary education just as Section 28 was repealed and for the most part, it might as well have still been in place. LGBT+ people were not acknowledged in history lessons and we certainly weren’t taught about LGBT+ historical figures. Thankfully, this is changing and schools and colleges are now realising the huge benefit of giving young people diverse role models to look up to.
“Let’s also not forget that it’s much bigger than sex education (although that is, of course, important) or the discussion about “what’s in someones pants”, there are LGBT+ people in every walk of life and by making sure that’s reflected in all aspects of education will make sure young people learning about society value how diverse it is.”
Last but not least, can you reveal any of your plans for Pride in Liverpool this year?
“As you can imagine, we are working to a plan A, B, C and D. Safety is of the utmost importance and we are working closely with Liverpool City Council and others to explore all the options. We hope that the Government’s roadmap will provide some clarity on what may be possible, but as yet it is too early for us to confirm anything. We will, however, be revealing our 2021/22 theme in coming months and there will be many ways for the business community to engage with this throughout the campaign period
“However, regardless of any decisions around Pride in Liverpool we will be running and supporting a series of events that spread the message of Pride outside of the annual event. Even when physical events do make a return, there will still be a digital element to all activations. We appreciate that people may not feel ready to attend in-person events straight away and it is vital that we find ways to help our community remain connected. You can sign up to our weekly newsletter for all the latest updates here, or you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Photo credit – Joe Shaw